In the 16th century, people knew little about the whale. For the most part, it was thought to be a fearsome sea monster.

But that changed when Dutch sailor Willem Barentsz went on a voyage of exploration to the Arctic Ocean. He found large pods of whales and noticed how easy they were to catch. More and more men followed in his wake, hunting the whale and the fortune to be made in baleen and oil won from their blubber.

Care for this beautiful mammal

In the 19th century the Dutch whaling industry came to an end, but the hunt started again in the famine that followed the Second World War. Whale hunting continued until 1964 when the last whaling vessel flying a Dutch flag - the Willem Barentsz II - set sail for the last time. By that time, environmental activists all over the world had started protesting against the whale hunt. Whales are threatened with extinction and the hunt is cruel. Today, the denunciation of whale hunting is nearly universal.

Learn more about the whale in the West wing of The National Maritime Museum

The tale of the whale shows how our image of the largest creatures that ever lived has changed through the centuries. This exhibition teaches you all about whaling and how this mighty creature was turned into an endangered species. 

The Whale Weeks

This summer vacation The National Maritime Museum organises the Whale Weeks. In various playful activities you get to know more about the relationship between people and nature and the importance of clean oceans.

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